In a time when people are rushing to theaters to watch Jesus be beaten for 2 hours straight; in an era where the world is overreacting to a Superbowl mishap by falling back on psychotic puritanical values; it’s strange to see so many “R” rated teen comedies being shipped out into theaters. Like Eurotrip, released a few weeks earlier, The Girl Next Door is not afraid of nudity and sex for pure entertainment. It’s another “no holds barred” teen comedy that is in its own way refreshing just for its willingness to go all the way.
In it, Mathew (Emile Hirsch) and his friends approach High School Graduation. They aren’t geeks, or losers, just really boring. They’ve spent their high school experience on the outside looking in. Now that it’s ending, Mathew realizes that while others have fond memories of wedgie giving, he’s spent all his time staring at history books. That’s when Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves in next door and immediately undresses in front of an open window. Yes there is a lot of nudity in this film, but no you never really see Cuthbert as god intended. There’s a bit of side boobage, which could have been a body double but which I will choose to believe was really her just for my own enjoyment. Anyway, teenage hormones take over, Mathew gets caught staring, and as punishment ends up dancing naked in the middle of the road.
Danielle is good for Mathew and for reasons unknown to him, the hottest babe on the block thinks he is worth a look. Something blossoms between them, in the way things only seemed to do back in the 80’s when power pop soundtracks were played. Director Luke Greenfield seems to have a good grasp on the power pop thing and uses it to propel his characters forward into a headlong relationship where secrets are uncovered and Mathew ends up in way over his head.
The first half of the movie is a sort of wild love story, the type where crazy girl teaches lonely guy to loosen up a bit, and do things like wear slightly more exciting underwear. It’s funny, weird, and in a strange way sweet. Cuthbert makes me sweat every time she’s on screen without ever saying a word. She has amazing presence on camera and not just because of her bodacious and frequently wet bod.
In the second half of the film, things fall apart for Mathew and the film becomes less about his relationship with Cuthbert’s Danielle, and more about Mathew getting the cahones to stand up whatever the odds. In fact, my one big complaint with the film is that it abandons Danielle almost entirely in the latter half, becoming absorbed entirely with Mathew’s fight. The big surprise (which was already ruined in the trailers) is that Danielle is a porn star, trying to leave the biz. Mathew finds out when his friends discover her on video. He comes to grips with it, only to see her hauled back into the industry by her sleaze-boy producer Kelly (played brilliantly by Timothy Olyphaunt).
Emile Hirsch is the type of guy that would fit a movie like Weird Science or Sixteen Candles. He comes off as the love child of Anthony Michael Hall and a very young John Cusack. Driving around in his station wagon while all the other kids drink beer and carry off cheerleaders in their stylish pickups and SUV’s, Hirsch is dazzling when playing the downtrodden everyman. In The Girl Next Door the perfect, boring kid gets pushed a little too far and finds the courage to stand up for love while tripping on Ecstasy. Yes, this is still a teen comedy, with all the raunchiness and sex fun that implies. But Hirsch makes it something special beyond that, with a character that it becomes impossible not to identify with whatever crazy hijinks ensue.